The first good shake out walk with the Panasonic GH3.

If you read the VSL blog regularly you'll know two things. I recently bought a Panasonic GH3 for video projects (yes, I tested it head to head with a Canon 5D3 and prefer the usability of the EVF and the smooth, luscious detail of the files from the GH3) and that I have no allegiance to any one camera system. Whatever works, works.

I bought the GH3 before I headed to NYC and barely shot five frames around the studio. When I got back home I spent an evening reading the manual and going over the menus ( which are straightforward and make sense).  I finished all the work I needed to get done today around 4 pm and decided to take the GH3 out for a walk, just to see how it felt and how it performed.

To date I have three lenses for this camera: the older kit lens, the Leica/Panasonic 25mm 1.4, and the 45-150mm 3.5 to 5.6. I have a new version of the kit lens heading my way and the offer of lens loans for most of the Panasonic premium line from Frank. I also have a nearly complete collection of Olympus (film) Pen lenses from pedestrian to esoteric high speeders. Today I made things simple and I just put the old kit lens on and set it at aperture priority and f5.6.

It's kind of silly and useless to test a camera in perfect daylight and with the lens stopped down to its optimum aperture. But I learned what I needed to about the camera and its operation during the course of my walk. The body is just right. Not too big but not so small that the buttons are smushed together. And speaking of buttons....there's pretty much a dedicated button for whatever you want to control. A far leap from my previous, screen centric week. 

 While I am spoiled by the full frame, huge resolution files from the two Sony cameras (a99 and a850) I find the images from the GH3 snappy, saturated and very sharp. The dynamic range seems ample and the metering is right on the money.

The real litmus test for me will be the rendering of skin tones. The tests I've done in video lead me to believe that things will be great in that department but you never really know until you try it and test it for yourself. I like the camera well enough that I'm buying a second body tomorrow and pressing it into service almost immediately for several video projects for clients. The second body is nothing extraordinary. A professional should always travel with a back-up to his or her main camera and one that uses the same batteries and menus is a distinct plus.  

If the camera serves me well I'll flesh out the lens selection with the two Panasonic 2.8 zooms. In the meantime I'll be using the Olympus Pen legacy lenses, Sony Alpha lenses with an adapter and the handful of Panasonic lenses I've already gotten. The worry is "lens creep." That's like mission creep. It's when you progressively justify and rationalize more and more lens purchases until you are knee deep in a system that you bought just for a specific function.

For those few readers who've come recently from forums and are hard of comprehension: My use of the Panaonic GH3s doesn't mean I'm getting rid of the full frame Sonys, nor is it a blanket endorsement of the Panasonic cameras. It just means that I like them better for video and I'm keeping an open mind about their efficacy for still imaging. If you don't like that; if that's not binary enough then you should read something else instead.

In terms of issues I am seeing two things: The contrast of the files could be a little higher and there is a tendency for the files to go slightly magenta. In the camera's defense, I have profiles down to a science for the Sony cameras. It will take a bit of time to get up to speed with the Panasonics. 
Finally, I will have to learn how to walk around with less weight on my shoulders. I hope it's enough weight to defy the centrifugal energy of earth's spin and keep me from flying off into the ether....

Three little systems. The Sony Alphas. The Pentax K-01 toy cameras. The Panasonic GH3's. Seems about right as we're nearing the end of 2013...

Studio Portrait Lighting


  1. Those look very nice on my iMac. The sky is more purple than how Oly presents it, but perhaps closer to reality (my old GH2 also made purplish blue skies).

  2. That is quite a collection!!! I look forward to reading your thoughts on the Panasonics for video.

  3. Nice pictures Kirk. I had a very gratifying relationship with my GX-1 for months, until the NEX came along. Pana engineers should be commended for the best menus and UI in the whole photographic universe. It is indeed color rendition and the skin tones that nailed the GX-1's coffin for me, plus the fact I always like a large sensor better. But things must have improved a lot, for the colors in your pics are gorgeous. Now let us see some flesh !

  4. In the last portrait there, it looks a little green -- over compensation for a magenta cast maybe? I can't quite put my finger on it, but perhaps also a little wide-angle effect making the ears look big ???

  5. your money.... no need to justify how you spend it..... I don't understand why you seem to swap so often but it is your money and you can spend it how you wish sir.

    I am trying to justify a GM1 a wide angle, swapping from the old 14-140 to the new one and getting a 25 f1.4 when I have a perfectly fine 20 f1.7 which I know I'll use more

  6. Pete, Not sure about the word "swap" as most stuff seems to linger around in addition to new stuff. We mostly just prune gear that's not being regularly used....

  7. I just meant you seem to move between a lot of different cameras. Sony FF, Sony Crop, Samsung, Canon, M43

    not a criticism, as I say your money.

  8. Most impressive walkabout images since the Olympus Pen era. Were most of these shot with the LCD screen or the EVF?

    I'm still struggling with getting the EVF in my G5 to render color anywhere near that shown on the LCD or in final JPG output. Have you any secret sauce to apply?

  9. Hi Michael, These were all shot using the EVF. The one in the GH3 seems pretty good. I didn't see the slight magenta cast on the screen though... I'll play with the parameters and see if I can balance out the files in camera. I did love shooting it. All comes down to the style of camera one prefers.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with you on the GH3's video. It can go ridiculously high on the bitrate, but even at a bitrate that others can manage (24mbps) its clearly superior in my eyes -- better detail, better color, and better handling of motion. Panasonic really nailed the video codec and pipeline on that camera.

    I was sorely tempted to buy one for a trip we were about to embark on, but due to space and financial pressures purchased an NEX-6 instead (my wife was also much more comfortable with the NEX than the chunky GH3). I didn't lose anything in stills quality but definitely did in video. Also, the NEX menu system is a joke compared to the GH3's extremely well thought out menus, and the GH3 also has so many manual controls you rarely need the menus.

    BTW, I also evaluated a Panasonic G6 and thought its video was also very, very good. It could make for a cheaper backup, but for video only. Its still performance hasn't improved much over the GH1/GH2, and so is well behind Current Olys and the NEXs.

  11. Blue skies!

    Weather news today is all about Austin area getting 12" and more of rain. Hope you're on higher ground.

  12. Mike, it's the second time in a month that we've had huge, long rains. We need the water but it's the "trying to drink from a firehose" conundrum. My place in west Austin is three or four hundred feet about the lake levels so the only issues we have are when the rain overwhelms the french drains and water seeps through the masonry at the studio and leaves a puddle on the concrete floor. The day after the last rain I bought a big shop vacuum to suck up the water on the floor and I thought it would be years till I used it again. Used it yesterday morning.....

    1100 people in some of the east of the city neighborhoods had to be evacuated and the lake that runs through downtown is still way up over its normal banks. Austin: Floods/Droughts, very little in between lately.

  13. As has been said about L.A., "the ideally suited animal would have evolved into a 'camel with gills', such was the area used to long dry spells interspersed with heavy rain."


    Some have said it has two seasons: flood and fire.

  14. For what it's worth everything looks great to this amateur on an old Dell laptop with cheapest of the cheap display panels......

  15. Just a note to say that strange color casts and lack of good contrast are often a result of using kit zooms, even Panasonic kit zooms. While they are surprisingly sharp optically speaking, color rendition and contrast often leave something to be desired--however, a Kirk indicates, a quick user profile creation in Lightroom can mitigate both issues very easily.

    In my own tests with the GH3, using good quality glass, the only problems I had is that reds can *sometimes* turn out looking a bit too pink or orange to my tastes, and yellows are not a bright as I would like. Neither issues are deal killers, just that Panasonic renders colors differently from the Olympus cameras I normally use. But I've never encountered a magenta cast in any of my images.

    On the other hand, GH3 RAW files take to post-processing very nicely, and there is a lot of latitude there for one to play with.

  16. Kirk, I look forward to reading about your experiences with the GH3. I'm considering the purchase myself for both stills and video work. And yes, there are a few of us video guys out here who enjoy hearing of your experiences in this arena, in addition to the stills. Keep up the good work!


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